Floyd Henderson opened Doc’s Famous Hot Links at 204 S. Wood St. in Gilmer after the owner of the former restaurant at that location died in January 1969.

He named it for his father, Floyd Clarence “Doc” Henderson, and ran it for 45 years before selling it to Terry Capps and his daughter, Mesha Capps, so he could retire.

While Doc’s is in different hands, the Cappses have kept alive a tradition that marked its 50th anniversary during a celebration Wednesday that drew more than 100 people.

Terry Capps, 61, recalled eating at Doc’s with his father while he was in second grade and said he decided to buy it from Henderson because he was already in the restaurant business. He owns a Dairy Queen in White Oak.

Mesha Capps, who marked her 40th birthday during the packed event, said Doc’s has stayed in business so long because the restaurant “offers a good product and nobody gets tired of it. It goes from generation to generation to generation.”

“That is why our motto is ‘a family tradition,’” she said. She said customers whose parents are no longer alive still patronize Doc’s because they have fond memories of eating at the counter with their parents when they were younger.

Kristi Rogers, a 20-year customer who lives in Kilgore and works in Gilmer, concurred with Capps that eating at Doc’s is a family tradition.

And, if she cannot eat inside the small restaurant, she said, “we will find somebody to bring them to us.”

Regular customers Felisha Wilson and Butch Ragland also sang praises of Doc’s.

Wilson, an English-as-a-second-language teacher who has patronized Doc’s for 34 of her 48 years, said she comes at least once a week.

“The food. The service. The people. They are always really nice,” Wilson said. “I like hot links. I kind of like the flavors of them. It is one of the things you’ve eaten your whole life.”

Ragland, 75, an insurance salesman and past president of the Gilmer Area Chamber of Commerce, said he has eaten at Doc’s since his teens and drops by once a month.

“Only once a month?” current chamber president Shayne Wilson asked him. “This is healthy food.”

Ragland responded, “They are tasty and good for us. It helps your cholesterol,” he said with a laugh.

Doc’s has changed little over the years, Henderson said. He said his son, Kevin, updated the cook room in an adjoining building about 10 years ago by building four stoves from heavy metal.

Doc’s also updated the menu by adding pepperjack cheese links a year ago and potato salad and beans four months ago — “just to add more variety,” Mesha Capps said.

Both the Cappses and Henderson said they hope Doc’s will still be open 50 years from now.

“It’s something that you had stuff to do with and you don’t want to see it go,” Henderson said.

Meanwhile, Doc’s is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.